Case Study - Lawrence Livermore


Lawrence Livermore

Virtalis Technology Part of U.S. Nuclear fusion bid

What Does Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory do?

For more than half a century, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has applied cutting-edge science and technology to enhance national security in the United States.

The Laboratory was established in 1952 at the height of the Cold War to meet urgent national security needs by advancing nuclear weapons science and technology.  Renowned physicists E.O. Lawrence and Edward Teller argued for the creation of a second laboratory to augment the efforts of the laboratory at Los Alamos.

At his laboratory on the Berkeley campus of the University of California, Lawrence had created the model of how large-scale science should be pursued through multidisciplinary team efforts.  Activities began at Livermore under the aegis of the University of California with a commitment by its first director, Herbert York, to follow Lawrence’s team-science approach and to be a “new ideas” laboratory.

Livermore made its first major breakthrough with the design of a thermonuclear warhead for missiles that could be launched from highly survivable submarines.  Biotechnology developments at Livermore and Los Alamos, such as chromosome biomarkers and high-speed cell sorters, enabled the launch of the Human Genome Initiative in 1987.  This multi-laboratory initiative grew to become an international endeavor that completed
sequencing the human genome in 2000.

In the 1970s, Livermore launched its laser research program and it has been at the forefront of laser science and technology ever since.  A sequence of ever-larger lasers to explore inertial confinement fusion is culminating in the National Ignition Facility (NIF).

In the 21st century, the Laboratory also initiated major efforts in energy security.  This work is aimed at the development of sustainable energy resources and technologies while reducing their environmental impacts and increasing our understanding of climate change.

Diagnostic near Target chamber- upper floor viewed using Visionary Render software at Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryHow Visionary Render Aids Research

Virtalis’ Visionary Render software has been used by scientists and optical/mechanical design engineers involved in nuclear fusion research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory since 2014.  Visionary Render replaced outdated software to visualize the model and is helping scientists to plan changes to experiments within the NIF.

“Our model of the NIF is both very large and highly complex.  It combines models from several CAD platforms and neutral CAD exchange formats.  There is no question that the model would be far too difficult to review using a standard CAD program, as it would be too large to navigate in real time.  It was therefore with trepidation that we transferred the files across to Visionary Render from the older software.  Not only did everything transfer perfectly, but there was a visual upgrade – suddenly all the surfaces looked much more realistic.” Paul Bloom, a mechanical designer at Lawrence Livermore

The National Ignition Facility Experiments

The goal of many NIF experiments is to create a self-sustaining “burn” of fusion fuel (the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium) that produces as much, or more, energy than the energy required to initiate the fusion reaction — an event called ignition.  The laser beams are amplified throughout this stadium-sized facility and enter the target chamber where they are focussed on a pea-sized piece of cryogenically frozen fusion fuel.  NIF’s 192 laser beams travel about 1,500 meters from their birth to their destination at the center of the spherical target chamber yet the journey from start to finish takes only about five microseconds.

Following the completion of NIF construction in 2009, scientists focused on installing, qualifying and integrating the facility’s many systems, as well the required scientific platforms to support a wide variety of experiments.  Precision experiments devoted to ignition began in 2011 and now hundreds of physicists, optical engineers, mechanical designers, electrical designers and mechanical engineers are working on this project.

Testing Change in the Virtual World First

All levels of scientists, engineers, and designers have found that using Visionary Render software to visualize the model of the facility is extremely helpful in deciding on future design possibilities, such as installing current diagnostic hardware in a complex and crowded space, especially around the spherical target chamber.  The views into the chamber ports give a realistic and variable field of view, mimicking what the diagnostic instrument placed on that port will ‘see’, plus any interference problems that may arise.  Animations of interference checks have been especially useful, allowing the movement of virtual models through a fully populated representation of the NIF facility to optimize rigging and transport paths.

 “Visionary Render really proves its worth when we need to test alterations to the chamber.  Recently, we needed to curtain off a section, but it wasn’t clear where the laser light would be escaping.  I put a virtual green light source into our Visionary Render model and it was instantly apparent where the shielding was required.  We also use our model to keep track of every physical change that takes place, as it is extraordinarily crowded and any new equipment needs thorough testing to be certain of the impact of the installation, enhancing health and safety within a potentially hazardous environment.  This is where the greater level of immersion afforded by VR is so valuable.  Our head-mounted display allows 3D exploration of the model to check different views.” Paul Bloom, a mechanical designer at Lawrence Livermore


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory NIF Project Website

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